Town of residence: McLean
Education: M.A. in International Affairs, Columbia University; B.A. in Anthropology and East Asian Studies, The University of Virginia
Offices held, dates: School Board Member, At-large, January 2012-Present
Occupation and relevant experience: Assistant Director, John L. Thornton China Center, The Brookings Institution
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter handle: @RyanLMcElveen
Name three endorsements: Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, Fairfax Education Association, Fairfax County Democratic Committee
What is one issue that defines your call to serve, why does it matter, and how will you tackle it?
I will remain a voice for the voiceless who don’t know how to best resolve their concerns with the school system. One of my first actions on the Board was to push for the creation of a system to allow community members to submit YouTube video testimonies to be shown at our meetings. We became the first public Board in the country to implement this kind of feedback mechanism. I will continue engaging with the community in a transparent manner and with an open mind while working to improve our communications.
What distinguishes you from your opponent(s) and why should voters choose you?
I have a track record of bringing significant and positive change to the school system in a short amount of time. I have focused on three major initiatives — improving school food (including the creation of a fresh food pilot kitchen and the system-wide study of our Food and Nutrition Services program), the internationalization working group (to help guide our work on implementing world languages and study-abroad opportunities), and the alumni networking action group (which has helped us map a path to create an FCPS alumni association). In my next term, I hope to see all of these efforts through to implementation.
How will you address the growing economic divide in county schools?
FCPS is a tale of two counties, and this unquestionably has emerged as one of our biggest challenges. In Fairfax, more than half of our elementary schools sit above the socio-economic tipping point, proving that Fairfax has moved beyond localized poverty. To address this divide, the School Board must maintain its long-standing practice of targeting these communities with needs-based funding. Co-location of school and human services facilities, as has been piloted in Mount Vernon, is another way to tackle this community issue without spending significant additional county resources.
How will you address the achievement gap?
Our Board has remained steadfast in our support of needy students and those who speak other languages at home by directing budget resources to these at-risk populations. We have made expanding early childhood opportunities one of our priorities, because we know that investments in the education of students at an early age pay dividends later in their educational careers (thus saving our system money). We must continue working with the county to creatively fund and house these programs.
More than half of the county budget is devoted to the local school system with a significant budget gap looming, both for FCPS and Fairfax County. What steps would you take to manage the gap and to fund the needs of the school system? What are the top priorities and what could be cut?
FCPS cannot remain the system it is today at current levels of funding, and we won’t realize that we’ve hit the breaking point until it’s too late. It is well past time to diversify local revenue streams.
Beyond Fairfax, the School Board must take advocacy to the next level by coalition building with similar, like-minded districts and umbrella organizations throughout the state to push for a change to our state funding mechanisms. Additionally, both Boards need to continue exploring legal recourse to obtain the education funding guaranteed by the Virginia constitution.
What value does FCPS add for taxpayers who do not have children in the schools?
FCPS is the bedrock of our community — it trains our children to be the informed and able citizens and leaders of tomorrow, it attracts corporations and their employees to our county, and it keeps our property values high.